Tag Archives: Bible Garden

Wasting or Trusting????

Spikenard flowerThe story of a woman anointing Christ’s head with perfume is in Matthew 26:1-3 and Mark 14:3-11.         

All four New Testament gospel writers recounted Christ being anointed with perfume by a woman. Luke’s gospel described an event set in Galilee early in Christ’s ministry. The other gospel writers identified the location as Bethany of Judea and the time frame shortly before Passover and Christ’s crucifixion. Both Matthew and Mark described Christ eating a meal in a home.

As Jesus reclined at the table, a woman entered the room with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume made of pure nard. She broke the jar seal and poured the perfume on Christ’s head.  Some of the other guests were indignant and asked why the nard was used for this purpose.   They said, “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  The value of the nard was worth a year’s wages, i.e., about 300 denarii, in Jesus’ time and equal to about $2,000 today.  

Aware of their indignation and questions, Jesus told the mutterers to leave the woman alone. He explained that what the woman did was beautiful. Then, Jesus said that wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, the story of the woman anointing him would be told in memory of her. The disciples only realized later that the woman anointed Jesus for his burial.

John (John 12:1-8) John’s account of the dinner occurred in Lazarus’ home with Martha serving the meal. Lazarus’ sister, Mary, poured nard on Christ’s feet, not his head, and wiped his feet with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume filled the entire house.  John recorded that it was Judas Iscariot who objected to Mary using the nard to anoint Christ rather than selling it.

Nard or Spikenard

Spikenard roots (Primrose Laboratories)The nard of the New Testament was Nardostachys jatamans, also known as spikenard. Nard did not and does not grow naturally in Israel.  Most likely, prepared nard was transported to Israel via trade routes with entry through the port of Elath. Nard is a perennial herb that grows from 4-24 inches tall. Each plant has a long tap root and 2-7 rhizomes however plants may have as many as 12 rhizomes.  The roots and rhizomes are used to make nard. In the Roman Empire, nard was the main ingredient in a perfume called nardinum.  Supposedly nard was an ingredient in the Israelite Temple incense. 

Symbolism: Trustworthy

The nard used to anoint Christ’s feet has sometimes been associated with sacrifice with authors arguing that purchase of the nard was a sacrifice on the part of the woman who anointed Christ.  Another perspective of the symbolism is “trustworthy.” The Greek word for spikenard is pistikŏs which means trustworthy in the sense of genuine or unadulterated.  In the story of the woman anointing Christ for burial, the nard was pure nard, it was unadulterated.

The woman’s love for Christ was so genuine that she bravely entered a room where a meal was served for “men only.”  She humbled herself to anoint Christ. The woman saw Christ as trustworthy. She did not expect Christ to reject her offering or expel her from the room.  Christ – God the Son — is always a trustworthy when individuals seek him.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 2/18

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Joyful Peppermint

Bible Reference: Luke 11:37-44. 

At the end of a day of teaching, a Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to eat. Christ entered the house and reclined at the table. The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash his hands before the meal for two reasons. First, most foods were eaten with the hands. Second, although not a Mosaic Law, Jewish hierarchy advocated a procedure for hand washing before meals. Knowing what his host was thinking, Jesus admonished him, saying that Pharisees clean the outsides of dishware while they disregard the insides which are full of greed and wickedness. Pharisees’ tithe on mint, rue, and garden herbs, but neglect justice and the love of God. Christ admonished the Pharisees to practice justice and love as well as tithing.

The Book of Law required that Jews tithe. Tithing meant that they gave 10% of their money and/or crops to the Lord which usually went to the Temple (Leviticus 27:30). Mint and rue were herbs produced by farmers and other agriculturists for commerce; therefore, Mosaic Law required Jews to tithe on them. Importantly, when Christ spoke to the Pharisee, he did not tell the Pharisee that tithing on mint production was wrong. Just the opposite, Christ reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Christ instructed the Pharisees that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

Mint, the Plant

The mint that grew in the Holy Land was Mentha longifolia, sometimes known as Mentha spicata L., wild mint, and horsemint. The large mint family, Lamiaceae, has 250 genera and 6,700 species; species names are often confused and confusing. Probably, M. longifolia originated in the countries of the Mediterranean Basin; however, South Africa claims it as indigenous. Mint thrives in most soils as long as soils are moist. If mint plants are propagated to secure a specific aroma, it is best to cut a piece of the original root (rhizome) and plant it. Virtually any part of a root will grow into a new plant.   When mint is planted for its essential oils, full sun is optimal; however, it will grow in partial shade. Wild mint tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure; it is not frost tender. In Israel, wild mint is found in Galilee, the central mountains and valleys, and south into the Northern Negev Desert and Aravah Valley. 

 Symbolism: Happiness, Joyful

The Greek word for mint is hēduŏsmŏn which is derived from hēdista meaning very gladly and kauchaŏmai, which means joy and rejoice. These two Greek words denote happiness and joy. Both words are appropriate for mint which medicinally relieves headaches, aids digestion, and is used to cover unsavory tastes and smells (Plants for a Future, 2012).

King David associated righteous behavior with gladness, happiness, and joy (Psalm 68:3). When Pharisees tithed on their income to include the relatively unimportant herb mint, they acted rightly. If they lived in strict adherence to the Mosaic laws, the Pharisees could have been happy, joyful people; yet, I could find no place in the Bible where the Pharisees were described as happy or joyful. Is it possible that righteous behavior does not lead to happiness? Was David wrong to associate righteousness with joy? Or was there something wrong about the righteousness of the Pharisees?

William MacDonald (1995) succinctly summarized why Pharisees were not happy and joyful.  They were externalists; which means the Pharisees were punctilious about small details of the ceremonial law, i.e., hand washing. At the same time, they neglected the greater commandments to love God and their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). They emphasized the subordinate and overlooked the primary laws of God. Happiness and joy cannot come when God or his primary commandments are ignored. Happiness comes from loving God and striving to please him in all things. Joy comes from doing good to others. 

Reflection. Christ said, whatever you do to the least man, woman or child, you do to me; and whatever you do not do to the least man, woman, or child you do not do to me (Matthew 25:40, 45). Christ is the “least” man, woman, or child.  

Copyright January 31, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Christmas Holly = Holy

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It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas. Time for holly. These pictures are of the beautiful American holly tree (Ilex opaca) that grows in southeastern United States. This one is in the St. John Church Bible Garden. It is evergreen. These picture were taken on December 12 when the temperature is freezing at night. My friend told me that he goes out in the church garden, cuts springs from the holly trees there, and uses them for garland in his home. I think that this holly tree is happy to be used in this way.

Don’t confuse this tree with the holm tree in the Bible. That tree is an evergreen oak (Quercus ilex). Both species take their name from the pointed leaves.

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If you want to grow holly trees you need a male and a female. Only the female tree produces the beautiful red berries.

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A Christmas carol is The Holly and The Ivy.

Reflection: When I see, or hear, the word holly, I always think of holy. God is holy–pure, just, kind, bright–and I am not. If I were holy, I would want to be like the colors of the holly tree, e.g., vibrant, pleasing to look at, even colorful. I would want people to look at me and smile, as I do when I look at a holly tree.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: December 13, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Oleander, A Bible Rose

References: Sirach 24:18; Sirach 39:13; Esdras 9:26

The Plant:

The website “Flowers in Israel” noted the following references:

  1. 2 Esdras 9:26: So I went my way into the field which is called Ardath, like as he commanded me; and there I sat among the flowers, and did eat of the herbs of the field, and the meat of the same satisfied me.
  2. Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 24:18: I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho.
  3. Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 39:17: By a voice he saith: Hear me, ye divine offspring, and bud forth as the rose planted by the brooks of waters.

These references are from the Apocraypha, an addendum to the Bible which most Protestants don’t adhere to, but Catholics fully embrace. In these books the plant named is the “rose;” botanists translated rose as oleander. In Sirach 39:14 the section is identified “In Praise of Creation.”  Indeed, many individuals perceive the oleander as one of the more beautiful blooms in nature. H.B.Tristram in The Natural History of the Bible ” wrote that the oleander is unequalled for the gorgeous beauty of its flowers, which shed a glowing sheet of pink over the fringe of every lake and water-course for several weeks in the early summer.”

The oleander (Nerium olander) is a broadleaf evergreen plant that grows well in Plant Zones 8–10. I live in Zone 7. After two years of vegetative growth each summer, my oleander has yet to produce flowers. Perhaps the climate is just too cold here in Roanoke. The oleander received its name from the leaves looking like olive leaves.

The Oleander grows up to eight feet tall and horizontally to five feet. Supposedly it is a seasonal bloomer with blooms pink, purple, or white. Blooms have five petals and the flower is funnel-shaped. The oleander should grow and bloom in full sun to part shade. It requires little maintenance and is drought tolerant. Supposedly, oleander grow well in tubs which are taken indoors in winter. Promptly deadhead spent blooms to prevent seed pods (very unattractive) from forming.

Symbolism: Sin

All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous if ingested. Plant saps can cause allergic skin reactions in some people. Smoke from burning plant material can be toxic. Ponder that something (the oleander plant) this beautiful to the eye is toxic to mankind. The oleander plant reminds me of many types of sin in our world. So many sins, i.e., beautiful, sleek, fast cars; seemingly glitzy life styles of the rich and famous; sumptuous banquets with an overabundance of rich foods to include desserts, are attract the eye but when consumed are poisonous.

Reflection: Just as the oleander plant is poisonous, so are certain sins that we encounter daily. The oleander plant is a lesson for Christians.

Copyright: November 5, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

For more information on Bible plants, visit my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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I Want Garlic!

Reference: Numbers 11:1-6

Story: After the Tabernacle was built and dedicated, the Israelites set out from the Mount Sinai area. Soon afterward, a group of individuals called “the rabble” began to complain about the hardships they encountered. Most scholars believe that the rabble were not Israelites; but opportunists who opted to leave Egypt when the Israelites slaves were allowed to leave. By this time, God was feeding the Israelites with manna.

One complaint by the rabble was that they craved food other than manna. Hearing the rabble complain, the Israelites joined their complaints. Both groups wailed and said:  If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never have anything but manna (Numbers 11:4-6).

In response, God did two things: 1) he gave the people quail to eat and 2) he killed all complainers. The Israelites buried them. The name of this place was Kibroth Hattaavah and it appears to be about 45 miles northeast of Mount Sinai.

Garlic was one of the foods that poor individuals and slaves ate in Egypt. In the United States, we use garlic as a seasoning or garnish, i.e., in stews, roasts, salads and on top of bread. Possibly garlic was more of a food staple in Egypt. I can imagine after over a year of eating manna, the rabble and some Israelites were tired of the monotony eating a relatively bland diet of manna. Thus, their complaints.

Growing Garlic: Garlic (‎Allium sativum) is easy to grow and produces numerous underground bulb. Plants are frost tolerant! Garlic can be planted early in the spring but bigger and more flavorful garlic comes from garlic planted in soil and allowed to overwinter there. Break apart cloves from bulb a few days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove. Plant cloves about one month before the ground freezes. Place cloves 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep, in their upright position (the wide root side facing down and pointed end facing up.

Mulch heavily with straw. In the spring remove the mulch after the last frost. Larger garlic bulbs will result if you cut off flowers that emerge in the spring. Over the summer fertilize with nitrogen especially if you see leaves turning yellow. Water every 3-5 days but do not let garlic stand in water.

Do not plant garlic cloves from the grocery store. They may be unsuited varieties for your area, and most are treated to make their shelf life longer. Obtain garlic cloves from a mail order seed company or a local nursery.

Symbolism and Application: Beyond its intense flavor and culinary uses, this “stinking rose” is an insect repellent and has been used for centuries as a home remedy. I believe that the symbolism of garlic is stink. The rabble in the desert stunk and their stink contaminated others, i.e., Israelites. Garlic acted as a bad apple that contaminated the bushel of apples because of its disease. The rabble stunk up or contaminated some true Israelites.

About 30 years ago I attended a certain church. By the time of this incident, I had been attending about 5 years. One night I received a telephone call from a relatively new church member. He began to tell me all the things that were wrong with the preacher. I listened and mentally I agreed with some things and some I disagreed with; however, I didn’t refute anything he said. At the end of his descriptions, he asked me to join a group who was trying to oust the preached. My answer was “No, thank you, I do not want to go this direction.” I always wondered why he joined the church if he disliked the pastor so much. There were plenty of other churches of that same denomination in the community.

Reflection: Garlic stinks and when eaten often causes bad breath. Christians who consume garlic-type foods can have bad breath when they witness to others.

Copyright: August 5, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my webpage (www.CarolynRothMinistry.com) and look at my blog on Bible plants to read more on plants in the Bible.

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Samuel and the Vineyard

Grapes from Gimso IsraelBible Reference:  1 Samuel chapter 8.

Samuel was a priest, a prophet, and the last judge over Israel.  Samuel’s life was at the intersection of two time points in Israel’s history: (1) when Israel was a theocracy and judges conveyed God’s will to the people and (2) when there was an earthly king over Israel.  Samuel was about 65 years old when the leaders of Israel came to his home at Ramah.  There, Israel’s leaders requested a king.  Their reasons were 1) Samuel was old; 2) his sons did not walk in his ways; i.e, Samuel’s sons’ perverted justice by accepting bribes; and 3) like other nations the Israelites wanted a king who would protect them and fight their battles for them.

Samuel was not pleased that Israel’s leaders asked for a king.  Most likely, Samuel was hurt, perceiving that the Israelites were rejecting his judgeship.  For approximately 350 years, Israel was ruled by God through judges.  Now, during Samuel’s tenure as judge, they asked for a king.  Despite his feelings, Samuel took the elders’ request to God. Possibly, Samuel thought God would be jealous of his divine rule and reject the Israelite’s request.  God’s response was to assure Samuel that the tribal elders were not rejecting Samuel, but that they were rejecting him (God).  God told Samuel to accede to the Israelites request for a king; but to first warn the Israelites what a king who ruled over them would do.  Acting on God’s direction, Samuel told the Israelites that a king would:

  • Take their sons to man and equip his chariots and horses, serve as warriors, make weapons of war, plow the kings ground, and reap the king’s harvest.
  • Take their daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.
  • Give to his officials and attendants the best of their fields, vineyards (grapes), and olive groves and 1/10th of their grain and vintage (wine).
  • Take the best or their cattle and donkeys and 1/10 of their flocks.
  • Take for his use their menservants and maidservants

Samuel warned the Israelites that they would become the king’s slaves. When this happened, the Israelites would cry out to God, but God would not answer them. The Israelites refused to listen to Samuel’s warnings; emphatically, they asked for a king.  Once again Samuel took their demands to God.  God’s response was, “Listen to them and give them a king” (1 Samuel 8:22). Chapter 8 ends with Samuel telling the men of Israel to go back to their own town.  Chapter 9 begins with the story of the first king of Israel.

The Grape Vine

The plant that illustrates Samuel’s message to the Israelites is the grapevine. The grapevine is one of the seven plants that God told the Israelites would be available to them in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:8).  In ancient Israel, grape vines were a principle crop because grapes were used fresh or dried or made into wine. Taking the best of an Israelite’s vineyards could deprive a family of food and/or affect their income. Vitis vinifera is the botanical name for the grape that grows in Israel.  In ancient Israel when a family had only a few vines in the yard, often the vines remained laying on the ground.  The V. vineifera fruit is the grape.  The best grapes  are obtained when vines are pruned.  Wine is fermented grape juice.  Although the Negev was a popular area for wine growing in ancient times, today there are wine regions all over Israel.

Symbolism: Destiny

The grape vine and vineyards are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible.  At times the vine referred to peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4, and Zechariah 3:10).  At other times, the vine was associated with the Israelites and their destiny as God’s chosen Old Testament people (Psalms 80:8-16 and Isaiah 1:5-8).  Destiny means a predetermine course of events. Israel’s destiny was that God be their king; he was to be the watchman over the vineyard Israel (Psalm 121:3-4).  In Old Testament Israel, large vineyards were surrounded by a thorny hedge or stone wall.  A tower was placed in the vineyard for a watchman to guard the vineyard from thieves and/or destroyers.

Psalm 80 provides a succinct description of Israel as a vine and Israel’s destiny.  God brought a vine out of Egypt and drove out the nations and planted the vine in Canaan/Israel.  Initially the vine grew and flourished.  Then, the Psalmist laments, “why have you broken down its wall so that all who pass by pick its grapes?” (Psalm 80:12).  Regardless of the Psalmists lament, we must remember that the Israelites, not God, changed their destiny.  Had they continued in obedience and trust, God would have remained their watchman.  Certainly, Samuel’s warned the Israelites what their destiny would look like under an earthly king and numerous prophets warned them against rejecting God and turning to idolatry.

Despite Israel rejecting their God-given destiny, God did not leave the Israelites without hope.  In Zachariah, God told the Israelites that he would send them his servant, the Branch and remove the sin of the land in a single day (Zechariah 3:8–10). The branch is a title for the Messiah.  On the day Christ was crucified a way was opened to removed sin from Israel and the world.

What this story means for the 21st century

God has appointed a destiny for Christians, unbelievers, men, and women. This life or death destiny applies to all people.  Jews and Gentiles no longer have separate pathways to everlasting life (Ephesians 2:11-22).  Saint Paul described that destiny as, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  The true and absolute pathway to life is through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Reflection.   Spend some time reflecting on your final destiny. Are you sure about it or do you have some doubts?  If so, read Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and John 3:16.  Then, talk to God about your life. Ask God to forgive your sins through belief in his son, Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of every man and woman

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/.

Copyright November 4, 2011; carolyn a. roth

 

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Caught in a Thicket

Photograph is Chaste tree flower in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden

Bible Reference: Genesis 22:1-19.

Isaac was the son that God promised Abraham and Sarah – the son through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. When Isaac was about 16 years old, God commanded Abraham to take Isaac to the region of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.

Abraham didn’t hesitate or question God’s command. Early the next morning, Abraham, Isaac, and two servants started walking toward Mount Moriah. As Abraham and Isaac walked together, Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham responded that God would provide the lamb.

When they reached Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, arranged wood on it, and bound Isaac on top of the wood. Abraham picked up his knife, prepared to slay Isaac. At the last minute, the angel of the Lord told Abraham to not kill Isaac. The angel commended Abraham for fearing God enough to sacrifice his son.

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by the horns in a nearby thicket. The thicket held the ram in place in much the same way that Isaac’s bindings held him on the altar. Just as Isaac didn’t struggle against his bindings, the Bible doesn’t indicate that the ram struggled to loosen its horns from the thicket. The ram was simply there, waiting for Abraham to see it. Abraham killed the ram and offered it as a burnt offering.

What is a Thicket?

Although Abraham, Isaac, and the ram played major roles in this Bible episode, so did the thicket. A thicket is a group of wild shrubs and occasional small trees which grow together to form impenetrable branches and roots. In thickets, trees rarely grow more than 10-20 feet tall. Often shrubs have thorns and vines entangle with them. Trees and shrubs that could have composed the Mount Moriah thicket were the chaste tree, prickly juniper, and myrtle.Chaste Tree Flower

Abraham’s planned sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in approximately 2050 B.C. At that time, much of the Judean Mountains including Mount Moriah was tree covered; however, approximately 30-40 years earlier, a natural or manmade disaster (earthquake, flood, or fire) occurred. Thickets grow only in response to disturbances where large trees are destroyed.

In present day Israel, many wild trees and shrubs have been replaced by plants, e.g., flowers and domesticated trees; however, some thickets still grow where cultivated land was abandoned. An example is the Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park northwest of Jerusalem. When we hiked a park trail, we didn’t see a ram; however, cattle foraged the area. It was easy to image one reaching into the thicket for succulent leaves and getting its horns tangled in branches.

For wilderness hikers, a thicket can be a difficult landscape to traverse. Often when experienced hikers encounter a thicket, they don’t enter it; they go around the thicket. Trying to go through a tangled, thorn-infested thicket can result in loss of direction and damage to skin and clothes.

My friend from Texas calls the chaste tree a “Texas lilac” Its if from the Genus,  Vitus. They are perennials and grow all over the Roanoke Valley (plant zones 6 and 7).

Symbolism

The Hebrew word for thicket comes from the word çâbak, which means to entwine in the sense of interwoven branches. In English, entanglement means to wrap or twist together and to ensnare. Often entanglements cause confusion. Imagine the confusing thoughts that Satan brought to Abraham’s mind during the three day walk to Mount Moriah; e. g., “Surely God doesn’t mean for you to sacrifice Isaac? A God that really loved and cared about you would never require you to kill your beloved son.”

In contrast to the ram entangled in the thicket, Abraham didn’t become entangled in Satan’s lies or become confused by his limited understanding of God and the situation. Abraham obeyed God, believing that God would keep his promise and Isaac would be the father of all nations.

Reflection: Think about a time when you were wrapped up, twisted, or entangled in a problem. Did God fit in anywhere? Knowing what you know now, how could you have involved God more?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my book God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 21, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

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Linen Curtains in the Tabernacle

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Read how Tabernacle Curtains were made and used in Exodus 26:1–6 and 31-37; Exodus 27:9–19; and Exodus chapter 28.

Flax was used extensively in the Tabernacle to make linen. Flax is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and was an important crop in Egypt since the 5th millennium B.C.  The linen curtains, the blue, purple and scarlet embroidery yarn, and the linen priest’s clothes came from the flax plant. The two craftsmen, Bezalel and Oholiab, God designated to oversee building of the Tabernacle were given skill as designers and embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and in fine linen (Exodus 35:35). 

In the Tent of Meeting, a curtain (veil) made of fine woven linen hung between the Holies of Holy and the Most Holy of Holies. Cherubim were embroidered on the veil with blue, purple and scarlet yarn.  The Tent of Meeting roof was made of linen curtains. The curtains draped over the outside of the gold-covered acacia wood panels.  Cherubim made of purple, blue and scarlet yarn were woven or worked into the linen curtains.  A fine linen curtain covered the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (east side).  The entrance curtain included colored yarn, however, there were no cherubim on the curtain.  The sides of the Tabernacle courtyard were plain linen curtains held in place by silver hooks that attached them to the wood posts.  The curtain at the courtyard entrance was the only courtyard curtain that included colored yarn.  An embroiderer was used to make the entrance curtain.  

Aaron was the first Israelite high priest. God gave very specific instructions for making his   clothes.   The clothes included the breastplate, ephod, robe, tunic, turban, sash, and undergarments.   All were made with fine linen.  With the exception of the tunic and undergarments, all linen clothes were embroidered with or used colored yarn.  No sandals or shoes were included as part of the high priest’s clothing.  The rationale for lack of sandals was that when Aaron ministered to the Lord he was on holy ground.  As priests, Aaron’s sons had special clothes.   Their clothes included tunics, sashes, headbands, and undergarments made of linen; no colored yarn or embroidery was used.

 In the Bible, the Hebrew word for the linen associated with the Tabernacle is shêsh. Shêsh means “fine linen” and denotes a type of Egyptian linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness. When Egyptians wove fine linen, they used as many as 140 strands of threads per inch lengthwise (warf) and 64 strands per inch horizontal (weft). Linen of this fine weave had the appearance of silk. In ancient times fine linen was a mark of quality and associated with wealth and rank. Fine linen was the usual dress of Egyptian priests and royalty.  Pharaoh dressed Joseph in fine linen when Joseph was promoted to second-in command over all Egypt (Genesis 41:41–43). Egyptian fine linen was exquisite – it was soft and flexible but strong, cool to wear, and had a luster or sheen to its whiteness.

As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites would not have possessed much, if any, fine linen; however, when they left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them tribute.  The tribute included clothes and more than likely included fine linen and yarn for spinning linen (Exodus 12:35-36). When Moses asked the Israelites for offerings to build the Tabernacle, he specified the need for blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen (Exodus 25:3).  Exodus recorded that skilled women spun fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn and brought these as offerings for the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:25-26).  There is no record that women wove the yarn into linen cloth for curtains or priest’s clothes.

 The Flax Plant

The Ancient Egyptian flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, was used to make linen.  In Biblical times flax was the most important fiber crop. Probably the L. usitatissimum originated in Mesopotamia; however, it was extensively cultivated in Egypt and less so in Palestine.  In Egypt flax grew along the sides the Nile River and particularly in the Nile Delta region. In Egypt and the Middle East, flax was planted in the early winter and flax harvested in the spring.

 The flax plant has a single stem that grows up to four feet tall.  The fiber is in the stem.  Initially, the stem is green, but turns yellow as the plant ripens and readies for harvest. When flax plants were harvested for fiber, mature plants were pulled up by their roots. Harvested plants were allowed to dry, then retted.  Retting is a process of soaking flax to separate the fiber from the woody tissue (straw).  Egyptians dyed some flax threads.  Blue and purple dyes were derived from shellfish (primarily the murex) which lived in the Mediterranean Sea. Scarlet dye came from the eggs and carcasses of a worm (Coccus ilicus) which lived on the leaves of holly plants.

 Symbolism: Purity 

 In ancient times, linen symbolized purity and in Revelation (15:5-6) St. John used “clean, shining linen” as a symbol for purity.  Purity means spotless, stainless, free from what pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong; free from moral fault or guilt. The Hebrew verb for purify, tāhēr, also means to cleanse or to be clean. The Tabernacle complex with its linen curtains was a symbol of the Israelite’s need to be clean or pure before God.  In the Tabernacle animals were sacrificed and animal blood shed to accomplish ritual purification.  Today when individuals accept Christ as their Savior, they are purified (cleansed) or made spotless in relation to former sins.  Then, the challenge of living a pure life begins.

 Of the 33 verses in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) which referred to purity, about 1/3 centered on the individual’s heart  In the Old Testament, King David implored God to “create in me a pure heart” (Psalm 51:10).  King David questioned who can approach God and stand before him? The answer was “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false” (Psalm 24:3–4).

 In the New Testament there is a similar focus on Christians keeping their heart pure. Christ taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).  Paul told Timothy that love (the greatest of all virtues) comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1Timothy 1:5).  He instructed Timothy to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  Paul cautioned Timothy to have nothing to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because they produce quarrels (verse 23).

  Taken together, these verses from the Old and New Testament communicated that to please God, Christians must keep their hearts pure.  Keeping a pure hearts begins with a sincere faith in Christ as our Savior. Purity means that we love one another and are free from moral guilt about how we act toward and think about each other.   Purity is about actively pursuing faith, love, and peace.  In addition to positive actions that help us to grow toward purity, the Bible verses on a pure heart articulated certain behaviors to avoid.  These behaviors are worshipping idols, lying, becoming involved in nonproductive arguments and quarrels, and pursuing evil desires of youth, e.g., sexual debauchery.

 I want to keep my heart pure; however, sometime I do not restrain my impulses. At times I fill my life with irreverent thoughts and actions.  In the past I often made my career an idol rather than keeping God at the center of my life. Most certainly I have engaged in foolish and stupid arguments, rationalizing them in the name of “devil’s advocate” or “intellectual debate.”  How, then, can I keep a clean, pure heart so I can see God in my day-to-day life?  The answer for me is the same as it was for the Israelites. I must agree with God about my sins. When I do, I can be at-one with God. God has made it easy for me to reconcile myself to him and his purity. I John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from sin and purify us from our unrighteousness.  Having a pure, clean heart is as simple as going to God admitting my sin and asking His forgiveness.

Reflection. When did you last clean up or purify your life?  Would now be a good time to enact I John 1:9 in your relationship with Christ?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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The First Thistle

 

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Read Genesis Chapter 3 for the story of thistles and thorns on earth.

Prior to Adam and Eve’s sin, the earth contained only plants that were identified by God as good and desirable for man and animals to eat  (Genesis 1: 12, 29-30). When Adam and Eve stepped outside of God’s plan (sinned), the entire created world changed. One change was that God cursed the ground because of Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 3:17-19). No longer would Adam and Eve be caretakers of a sumptuous garden with all it produced. Rather, in sorrow Adam and Eve would be required to toil (work, sweat) for the food they ate. From God’s judgment forward, the soil would grow thorns and thistles as well as plants and trees for food. Cultivating the ground for desirable crops created an environment where certain native plants became weeds, of which thorns and thistles were the most burdensome (Gen. 3:18).

It is not possible to ascertain which thorns and thistles God was referring to when he cursed the earth with thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:13). Over 20 different words are used for thorny plants in Hebrew versions of the Bible. Today the Holy Land is a sunny, largely arid region with many species of thistle. Often thistles are covered with spiny projections which are protective in nature. Many thistle seeds have feathery growths. When blown by the wind, feathery seeds float over a wide region. Following rain, large crops of thistles grow rapidly.  Although some thorns and thistles are beautiful to the eye, gardeners rarely want them in a field or garden; thistles are seen as invasive weeds.

Milk Thistle

One thistle present in Israel for thousands of years is the Silybum marianum, or blessed milk thistle. Milk thistles have both spines and thorns. The milk thistle is adapted to dry, hot, sunny areas to include waste areas. In most areas milk thistle is considered an invasive, noxious weed. Once established, it forms large (2-6 feet) dense clumps that displace desirable forage plants.  Because of its size and spiny leaves, milk thistles interfere with grazing livestock.  Milk thistle accumulates nitrogen and when ingested can be lethal to livestock. Fully mature seeds are glossy, brown to black, with an umbrella-like appendage. When released, seeds blow over a wide region.  A single flower head can produce 100 – 200 seeds.  Seeds can lay dormant in the soil up to nine years, then germinate after a rainfall.

Symbolism: Consequences

When Adam and Eve sinned, the created universe including plants became subject to death (Romans 8: 19-23). Since that time all creation has been groaning together as if under the pains of labor (Vine, 1996).  In the Greek language, mâshash is the word for groan. Mâshash implies a sense of groping, feeling, and searching. Both man and plants are reaching out, groping, for the new heaven and earth when creation will be set free of its death sentence. For both man and plants, freedom from death will occur with the second coming of Christ and establishment of His kingdom on earth.

Man created an environment in which thorns and thistles evolved. Sometimes I do that — I create an environment for thorns and thistles rather than for flowers to grow. In the past I have taken on major projects at home, church or in my job. Like Adam and Eve, I have sweated over the projects, expending tremendous energy and time. Despite my efforts, some project failed completely or partially – thorns and thistles resulted rather than beautiful flowers.

Looking back on these projects, I know that more often than not weeds resulted because of my disobedience. I let pride combined with my desire to “do it my way” block out listening to God, whether He was instructing me through another individual, His word (Bible), or my conscience.  At the same time, I know that I am groping and sometimes even groaning – trying to find my way toward God. I really want to obey His word and submit fully to His plan for my life.

Reflection: What about you – are you obeying God? Do you let Him create beautiful flowers in your life; or, alternatively, do your actions produce thorns and thistles?

Prayer: God, help me to plan and plant the garden of my life so that I am always obeying You. Help me to live so close to You so there are no spaces for thorns and thistles to spring up in my life.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth.

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Tree of Life

Read Genesis chapter 3 in an Amplified or New International Version Study Bible.

The Tree of Life was located near the center of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2: 9) along with the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Although God told Adam that he could not eat from the Tree of Knowledge, God gave no prohibition against eating fruit from the Tree of Life (Genesis 2: 16). All trees in the Garden were attractive to the eye and/or good for food, so it is likely that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Life while they lived in the Garden. After Adam and Eve disobeyed, God reflected on their new found knowledge and its implication. God said: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever (Genesis 3: 22).” Adam and Eve’s access to the Tree of Life was based on a proper relationship with God.

To prevent Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, God expelled them from the Garden of Eden. God placed cherubim (more than one) on the east side of the Garden to keep Adam and Eve from reentering Eden. The cherubim had a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to block the way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).

The Garden of Eden was destroyed before or during the great flood of Noah’s time when the topography of the land was changed; however, the Tree of Life was not destroyed. Rather, the Tree of Life was moved.  In the New Testament book of Revelation, John wrote about the Tree of Life in two different chapters. When speaking to the Church of Ephesus, Christ said, “to him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). At that time the Tree of Life was located in paradise. Christ testified that paradise was an existent place when He said to the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43. Paradise is the place of happiness and rest between death and resurrection (NIV Study Bible notes, 2002, p. 1618).

The Tree of Life is destined to return to earth. In the new Jerusalem a river of water will flow from the throne of God down the middle of a great street (Revelation 22:1). The Tree of Life is located on both sides of the river that flows from God’s throne. The Tree of Life will produce a different variety of fruit each month (Rev. 22:3). Christians who are victorious in overcoming evil (Rev. 7: 14) will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life (Rev. 7:14, 22:14). The leaves of the Tree of Life will be used for healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

Symbolism: Life

In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word associated with Life in the Tree of Life is “chay.”  “Chay” means alive, living thing, and life that lives and is contrasted with death. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they forfeited eternal life on earth. Even though God banished them from the Garden of Eden, He remained their Father. He continued to interact with them and their children. God made a way for Adam and Eve’s offspring to be reconciled to Him and have a life that lives forever. The way is through His son, Christ, who died once for all mankind.

Just as God wanted a relationship with Adam and Eve, He desires a relationship with each of us. The question is whether or not we are willing to symbolically eat from the Tree of Life here and now. In the New Testament book of John, Christ told Nicodemus that, “flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3: 5) and “whoever believes in him (Christ) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18. The birth and death of Christ was the victory over Satan predicted in Genesis 3:15 which Christ explained, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him (Christ) shall not perish but have eternal life (John, 3:16)

My earthly parents (Adam and Eve) were condemned to an earthly death, expelled from Eden, and barred from eating fruit from the Tree of Life, however, I am assured of eternal life. By accepting a relationship with Christ, I am no longer condemned to death; but will live in eternity.

Reflection. What about you? Where are you in the process and progress of your life? Is your future eternal death or eternal life?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright December 19, 2010, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.